EVERY year that Americans go to the polls, the US embassy in Kuala Lumpur throws an election watch party — typically in the morning, local time, due to time differences.
With widespread dissatisfaction of the Bush administration, a gutted global economy, and the possibility of an African-American president, it was no surprise that the 2008 iteration was well attended. Visitors were greeted with a festive air, red-white-and-blue paraphernalia, and — if one were not a US citizen — an opportunity to participate in a mock election.
Barack Obama was clearly the favourite in the KL hotel ballroom just as he was in the US when he beat Republican candidate John McCain in a landslide victory to become the 44th US President.
In a speech at the event, US Ambassador to Malaysia James R Keith described the past year of campaigning as a landmark in American history. “The 2008 elections is a real pivot point,” he said, citing Barack Obama’s ethnic background, Hillary Clinton’s strong showing in the Democrat Party primary, and Sarah Palin becoming the first woman vice-president candidate. “The glass ceilings have been broken,” Keith said, “regardless of the result.”
The ambassador also acknowledged the formidable challenges facing the next president-elect of the US. Chief among these was the economy. “We’ve been borrowing from the future,” Keith said, in reference to the recent credit crisis and a 10-trillion-dollar national debt. “That party’s over.”